Survey – comments


While these statistical details are very interesting and relevant, we were blown away by the time many respondents took to also share their views in comments. Thank you again for that! Many of your comments were very personal, documenting concerns about residency rights just as much as concerns over the general direction of society if Brexit were to happen. It certainly became clear very quickly that the EU referendum is something many people see as intensely personal. So while economic considerations were very relevant to many respondents, for the majority of those who shared comments the EU and the UK’s membership of the EU is about much more.

As is very clear from our motivation to start Academics for Europe: we share that view!

In terms of broader concerns what stands out is the extent to which the EU referendum debate has triggered, brought out, open xenophobia. As one respondent noted:

Leaving the EU would be disastrous for the economy, but even more distressing is the fact that the tone of the debate is encouraging open expressions of racism.

As we tweeted recently, this appears to have intensified further in recent weeks. And it is beginning to have an impact on people as we are hearing about distress fairly regularly now. One respondent asked:

What about colleagues and students from other countries who are now being made objects of xenophobic hate and face the prospect of the end of their studies/careers? 

While we are prepared to go so far and say that the latter is not something we consider an immediate Brexit risk, it is very clear that the uncertainty Brexit would cause cannot have a positive effect. What about, as one respondent asked, the ‘negative “soft” impact on Europeans in Britain, eg not feeling welcome’? Many also linked this question to the issue of attracting talent. In particular, we would certainly agree with these points one respondent raised:

I feel that Brexit would seriously undermine our ability to attract talent. Contrary to the opinions espoused by many Brexiteers, I am under no illusions that the UK is some sort of scientific utopia which will attract researchers regardless of the number of hoops they have to jump through in order to obtain a working visa. Brexit would have an immediate, negative effect on the non-UK members of my research group and hence, our ability to carry out top quality research.

And of course this is research that benefits the UK, too.

In terms of more practical concerns the question of funding was particularly important. Many who support leave will, as a result of that, issue their usual charge: that we are all in the pockets of the EU. As we have explained many times: that is of course not so. And while the funding itself is, of course, very important to enable research, as one respondent explained:

Funding does not exist just to pay bills, it exists to foster collaboration […] 

This point was made many times, specific examples ranging from health research to research on flood risks. While funding, obviously, is something academics are very concerned about, the potential implications of a Brexit are viewed much more broadly through the significant risk is may have on collaborative research, the building of pan-European research teams, and, again, potential issues in terms of attracting talent for collaborative projects.

Concerns do not only exist with respect to science, however. Several respondents identified particular issues in arts and humanities subjects. As one respondent put it:

Grant funding in the Arts & Humanities is scarce as it is; leaving the EU will remove our access to important EU funding. It will also complicate if not prevent, exactly the sort of international collaborative research ventures that we need to be pursuing and which matter so much for the REF. I am also concerned about the impact of Brexit on opportunities for academic and cultural exchange.

We also asked respondents to tell us more about why they might consider leaving the UK in case of a Brexit(if this is something they do consider). Many reasons here were very personal, particularly relating to concerns over residency rights and family responsibilities. But we wanted to include a few more specific thoughts here too. So this is a selection from different respondents. What we found particularly telling is that no small number had a) already made “emergency plans”; b) that the potential of a second independence referendum in Scotland is considered a ‘light at the end of the Brexit tunnel’ by quite a few; and that c) quite a few people are being headhunted as employers elsewhere seem to recognise that there is significant unease in the UK’s academic community about Brexit. If this isn’t telling, then we don’t know what is. This certainly does not bode well for an actual Brexit scenario.

A selection of responses to question 9: comments on whether respondent has thought about leaving the UK in case of Brexit (each line break marks a new response by a different respondent):

Absolutely. Already sought out and accepted a position [elsewhere] to prepare for the eventuality [of Brexit].

As an EU national, freedom of movement and the great academic exchanges enhanced by the EU were a key reason for my coming to the UK in the first place. If all of this were to disappear, in the event of a British exit from the EU, I am not sure I would feel welcome here.

I’m very concerned that many of my friends, EU citizens but not British citizens, who work as academics will leave because they will feel unwelcome.

Concerned about living in a country which is small inward looking and culturally impoverished, living in vestiges of Empire. Working in cultural history/theory European thought important but hard to access even in EU. Outside with fewer chances for exchange of ideas or collaboration Britain will be more petty and less intellectual.

I am hoping to move to Scotland specifically, which will hopefully extract itself from any Brexit mess post haste.

I am European so I’ve thought about what my options would be if I’m no longer welcome in the UK, be it in terms of actual residency, job, entitlements, etc.

It would be a question of principle. In practical terms I don’t know if I would actually leave (and if so then only once I have completed my phd), but I would not feel generally welcome here anymore and so would consider rejoining the European family by moving away from the UK.

I have already been tapped up by 4 german business schools.

I have serious concerns for the future of human rights and environmental legislation if the UK were to leave the EU. If Brexit happens I would hope to see a push for another referendum on Scottish independence, with an eventual Yes vote.

My wife is an EU national and I think it unfair that after 28 years as UK Tax payer she gets no vote on this. I / we woyld not wish to remain in a little Englander society lurching ever more grotesquely to the right.

What else will I do? I can’t leave with this stigma around my identity all the time. I go to a pub and get asked how much I like ISIS because I have beard and I don’t look White enough. Academia was the only place I didn’t need to justify who I genuinely am, but it is changing. Why stay here? There are much better places in the world to go.

I do not want to live in a country with a neo-colonial attitude.

I am afraid I would not feel welcome in this country after Brexit, especially given the rhetoric the leave campaign has used. Brexit would also marginalise British universities globally, making other EU countries more attractive.

I would definitely consider emigrating, particularly if Scotland managed to become an independent state in Europe. If not, then I would look to Ireland, Germany, Netherlands or Denmark.

I would wonder about whether or not I wanted to spend the rest of my career in this country.

Yes, I am actively investigating this. I’m also considering relocating to Scotland as I think Scottish independence is more likely following a Brexit.

For me this isn’t an if but a when. Were Brexit to happen, I will leave. It may not be immediate, but I would do it.

We also would like to say a word on leave: as our poll at the end made very clear, the vast majority or respondents to the survey support remain. So in that sense there was little to glean from the survey that might shed further light on the perspective of someone who supports leave. Furthermore, there was only one comment from a leave supporter, stating simply that the respondent is ‘positive about Brexit’.

We’d like to leave you with a few more comments from respondents, made in the general comment section at the end of the survey. We hope these will inspire you to go out there, to make that positive case for the EU. If we don’t continue making it, the UK may still sleepwalk into Brexit not because there really is such deep support for leave, but because of things like low turnout or people being annoyed by Tory mud-slinging. So talk to your friends, your neighbours. Tell them why you believe in the EU. Don’t tell them about the economy or their money. Tell them from the heart what the EU means to you.

I never imagined it would come this far. I’ve always felt welcome and equal in the UK but the referendum, the rhetoric around it and the rules for who can vote have made me realise just how precarious a position I have as an immigrant (and I’m one of the “desirable” highly educated immigrants). It makes me sad to observe the apparent narrow-mindedness and lack of vision and passion to make a European identity work.

The more we can work together, the better for everyone.

Brexit is a manifestation of small-minded isolationism that will hurt Britain and the rest of Europe. While there are many things I don’t like about EU politics and bureaucracy, I dread to think what Europe would be like without it.

My main concern is that we may be crippling our own children’s futures as well as our own. I also resent the fact that the country has been drawn into what is essentially a domestic fight among Conservatives, and a bid by some politicians to secure their own future positions.

The EU is as much of a cultural and political project as an economic one and we should not be embarrassed about this. It has helped to keep an uneasy peace in a continent more used to resorting to war as s first step and has encouraged levels of pan-European discussion and debate not really seen since the Enlightenment. Again we should celebrate this. Also this is a very unstable time and not the time to start to tear Europe apart.

Living in Germany, where it is highly uncommon for the German flag to be flown without the EU flag, it seems to me that not feeling part of Europe is a big issue. Not just for this reason, I wish the remain campaign would be more positive.